The Average Gamer

Hands-on with Aliens: Colonial Marines Multiplayer

You can’t help but marvel at a game that makes you jump out of your skin at your own shadow, can you? Especially when that’s followed by the sinking realisation that the other shadow? That’s a xenomorph and it’s standing right behind you. Even more marvellous is when these are entirely unscripted moments, the natural result of a 6v6 team deathmatch in a wonderfully-lit setting.

Gearbox’s Aliens: Colonial Marines was on show at the London MCM Expo last weekend and I got involved in the 5-minute hands-on demos that were available. With queues looping all the way around the stand, this was one of the hottest titles on the floor – it was no wonder they couldn’t let us play a longer match.

We first watched the crack SEGA team play the xenomorphs (i.e. aliens) against our earlier queue-buddies fighting on the Marines’ side. Crawling up and down the walls of a map that was likely part of the USS Sulaco, xenomorph lurkers can attack from anywhere.

Dropping down onto the central atrium from a ceiling two floors above was a favourite move that left me paranoid of every large room. Leaping out from vents was another popular option that will shake up your normal method of scanning a room for entry points.

Ramshackle corridors and storage areas were mostly lit by the haphazard lights of an exploratory crew, leaving plenty of dark corners for the drones to lurk in. Of course, the dark didn’t impede the xenomorphs at all. Thanks to their superior senses, outlines of both friendly lurkers and opposing marines were highlighted through the walls.

Moving over to the Marines’ side of the booth, my team of random-people-I-was-queueing-near settled in for our own session. Scanning through the weapons, I skipped over the pulse rifles in favour of a shotgun. In such an enclosed environment, by the time we saw the aliens they were usually already on top of us. I like to keep a little something handy… for close encounters.

This gamble either paid off massively or was a dismal failure. I’m not sure which since every teammate was named “Player” and whenever I checked the scores, two were highlighted – the top scorer and the bottom of the team’s leaderboard. Having blasted a number of aliens right in the face, I’m choosing to believe that the shotgun was an awesome decision. I’m probably wrong.

As well as the aforementioned shadow-based horror, two great moments stood out for me. The first was a simple feeling of satisfaction at using my tools correctly. Even in the multiplayer you have your motion tracker. Mine showed a series of blue blobs and red blobs, which I took to indicate friendlies and oncoming aliens respectively.

Standing in the darkness, I pulled out my tracker only to catch a red blob right on my tail. With nothing visible around the room, I stepped quickly to the left and blasted upwards, spinning around to catch the falling lurker in the chest with a second blast for the kill. I was the ultimate badass and there was no one around to see it. *sigh*

The next great moment was when I was backed into a corner by no fewer than four xenomorphs. Facing certain death and needing to reload, I took my one desperate option; punching the nearest alien in the face with the butt of my shotgun. Much to my surprise, this worked. The beast was knocked back, giving me a small opening to reload and blast one of its fellows in its horrible slavering mouth. Of course, the other two soldiers decapitated me with a whip of their tails but that’s what I get for backing into a corner in the first place.

Gearbox have done a great job capturing the overwhelming advantages that xenos have over us squishy humans. In only a 5-minute session it’s clear that this is no run-and-gunner for the gung-ho Marine. You’ll jump at any unexpected movement, you’ll move carefully through doorways lest a lurker drop down behind you and if you want to stay alive, you’ll travel in packs to kick ass. Any time, anywhere.

Aliens: Colonial Marines will be released on 12th February 2013 for PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii U.